Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa sees nothing wrong when Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. asked Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian for help to buy 5 boxes of Carrimycin tablets, an unregistered drug from Beijing, that supposedly helped him recover from COVID-19 infection.
In times of crisis, Dela Rosa said we have to be practical as there is no prescribed medicine yet that can cure COVID-19.
“If I were in his shoes, as a COVID-19 patient, I would even reach out to a quack doctor just to stay alive,” added Dela Rosa, a former chief of the Philippine National Police.
But Senator Leila de Lima considered as “wrong in so many levels” Santos’ letter for the non-FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved medicine to give to his close friends.
De Lima said solicitation of personal favors by public officials is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
She also said dispensation of medicine by a non-licensed individual is an illegal practice of medicine in violation of the Medical Act.
“Even doctors who prescribe non-FDA approved medicines are in danger of losing their license,” she said.
“But most importantly, she said that the AFP Chief of Staff is the highest military officer of the land, answerable only to the Office of the President. She said Santos is the ultimate person charged with protecting our national interest.”
“For him to owe a debt of gratitude to any foreign entity is a conflict of interest at best and treason at worst,” said De Lima.
“We need an armed forces chief who cannot be bought by anyone, especially foreigners.”
Since the Philippies is in the middle of a territorial tension against China, she insisted that our armed forces and our country need an assurance that the integrity and loyalty of our Chief of Staff is beyond question.
In his letter, Santos said the said medicine helped him recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection and “I intend to give the said drug to my close friends who have also been infected.”
“I took Carrimycin tablets given to me by a Chinese friend with a dosage of two tablets a day for six days. On April 5, I was tested negative for COVID-19.”
AFP spokesman Edgard Arevalo said Santos’ letter was authentic but has since been withdrawn.
“He believes he has been cured by the medicine and it was effective. He doesn’t want to keep the cure to himself and would like to share his experience to some of his friends,” Arevalo said.
“We do not see any conflict of interest. This is about medicine that the AFP Chief feels can save people’s lives. That is more compelling.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meantime, appealed for understanding for Santos’ action since the latter had suffered from the respiratory illness.
“It wasn’t very improper. It was just out of place because letters like those should be coursed through the Department of Foreign Affairs. He did not violate any regulator or imperiled our national security so we will let the matter rest already because he already admitted and he explained to me the reason why he did it,” said Lorenzana.
Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian on Wedensday urged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to provide more decent quarantine homes for returning overseas Filipino workers to ensure their health and safety during the pandemic.
Gatchalian deplored the condition of repatriated migrant workers who share a cramped room in an OWWA shelter house in the Philippines, as shared by a male OFW through the social media.
The male voice behind the video, who sounded disappointed, said they were taken care of in a quarantine facility in Kuwait and made sure that they observed social distancing.
However, he noted that their dire situation at the OWWA quarantine shelter back here at home shows total disregard for stringent quarantine measures.
They were even asked to join OFWs from Dubai and South Korea in the said quarantine area.
The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a directive that all OFWs arriving in the Philippines are required to undergo a 14-day facility-based quarantine. They are also required to undergo rapid testing for the novel coronavirus.
Gatchalian said there are also many OFWs who take their rants to social media about the poor sanitation and concerns on health protocols in some makeshift quarantine sites put up by the government.
Gatchalian said that if this will not be addressed soon, the country might face a similar consequence like that in Singapore which is now being battered by a second wave of infections after its government overlooked the conditions in some congested areas where many migrant workers live.
“We are placing all OFWs arriving under quarantine in government-sponsored facilities in order to prevent the possibility of wider coronavirus infection in the country. But cramping all of them in a small room is a recipe for disaster. It’s like we are incubating time bombs with devastating consequences,” said Gatchalian.
The senator said that OWWA can tap into its P19.4-billion trust fund of its members to provide them with decent quarantine homes and other needs during their 14-day quarantine period. Even if OWWA’s trust fund is not primarily intended for repatriation purposes, Gatchalian said the government agency should focus all its efforts and resources for the emergency repatriation of OFWs, especially during crucial times like these.
OWWA can also tap the help of the hotel sector in providing temporary quarantine areas, according to Gatchalian.